I had a great conversation with an old friend on the way home from a funeral last week. She’s in her early fifties; I am, alas, older then that. We talked about the many changes in the rights of women in our working lifetimes. For example, when I started work in the late 1970s, men were paid 1/3 more than women who were doing the same job.
A woman would automatically lose her job in most banks and in the Commonwealth Public Service, not for the sin of becoming pregnant, but for marrying. Think about that for a moment. Once a woman married it was assumed that all her time would be devoted to taking care of her husband, before the children even arrived.
Both my friend and I, and many other women of our generation, managed to rise in our respective careers, buy property (despite banks’ lending requirements being biased against women) and in other ways lead productive, fulfilling lives. Our conversation revolved around, not how far we have come, but how in your average, modern, First World culture, the wheel is turning against us once again.
One of the many worrying things coming out of the USA at the moment is the changes to the funding of Family Planning, and the revival of the abortion debate. Leaving aside abortion for a moment, as it’s a far too contentious issue to be discussed in one small blog post, let’s look at contraception.
Voluntary contraception is THE biggest change, and challenge, the human race has ever seen. Until the advent of The Pill in the 1960s, women had never had a reliable way of controlling their own fertility while still having an active sex life.
Without a means of controlling when she has children, a woman has no way of running her own life. She can’t build a career. She can’t invest. She can’t make decisions about her own life and how she spends it, because she is at the mercy of biology until her late forties or early fifties, and by then it’s too late.
So an attack on a government run service that provides contraception to women who might not be otherwise able to afford it is an attack on all women.
Do we want to go back to women being paid substantially less than men for the same work? To women not being able to buy a house without their father’s or husband’s signature? To contraception only being available at some pharmacies, and sold from under the counter? To do this wastes the resources, talents and abilities of half the human race.
During World War 2 the Allies were happy to use women to run factories and do many of the jobs normally done by the men who were away fighting. Hitler believed in “Kinder, Kirche, Kuche”, in other words, the place of women was raising children, going to church and cooking.